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Sula 1965 Summary

  • It's now almost twenty-five years later, and Nel senses how much has changed. She doesn't really know any of the new residents of the Bottom, and she thinks about how "different" the younger generation is (1965.2). It seems she's one of the few remaining people from her era, except for Eva, whom she decides to visit in the senior home one afternoon.
  • Much has changed since Nel has last seen Sula's grandmother. Eva no longer bothers to dress up her one good leg, and she now has "milk-dull eyes" and "floppy lips" (1965.14). She seems to be suffering from some form of dementia as she stands and irons clothes that aren't really there. But she remembers who Nel is, and their meeting takes a nasty turn.
  • Eva accuses Nel of throwing Chicken Little into the river, and when Nel tries to correct her and tells her that it was Sula, Eva seems in total control of her faculties and says, "What's the difference? You was there. You watched, didn't you? Me, I never would've watched" (1965.35).
  • Nel keeps trying to convince Eva that it wasn't her fault, but Eva won't listen. She starts calling Nel by Sula's name and she declares that there, "Never was no difference between [them]" (1965.49). This obviously upsets Nel, so she leaves quickly, but she can't stop thinking about that day by the river.
  • And then we learn something surprising: Nel was the one who decided they shouldn't tell anyone what happened. And she's the one who felt "contentment" and "enjoyment" (1965.58) when Chicken Little never came up from the water.
  • Nel makes her way over the "colored part" (1965.59) of the cemetery where Sula is buried.
  • She starts to think about the sad circumstances surrounding Sula's death. She remembers that no one came to view the body, and no one "sen[t] flowers from the church or bake[d] a yellow cake" (1965.63). She remembers being "the only black person" at Sula's burial (1965.65). It wasn't until after the ceremony, "until [after] the white folks left – the gravediggers, Mr. and Mrs. Hodges, and their young son who assisted them" (1965.65) that the townspeople entered the cemetery and sang over Sula's grave. These memories all make Nel very sad for Sula.
  • After leaving the cemetery, she sees Shadrack. He recognizes her but can't quite place her, and he eventually stops trying.
  • As Nel and Shadrack walk away from each other, they both are "thinking separate thoughts about the past" (1965.68).
  • But suddenly, Nel calls out Sula's name and things start to happen around her. "Leaves stirred; mud shifted; there was the smell of overripe green things. A soft ball of fur broke and scattered like dandelion spores in the breeze" (1965.71).
  • Nel finally realizes that it isn't Jude that she's been so sad about all these years; it's Sula. She finally cries the way she couldn't when she found Jude and Sula together. "It was a fine cry – loud and long – but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow" (1965.73).

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